Physically, mentally Jadeveon Clowney seems ready to play.
“I think he’ll play,” South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said on Thursday. “He’s gotten better. He’s still getting a lot of treatment, he’ll continue to get a lot of treatment, but I think he’ll play.”
Clowney’s strained rib muscle, one of the most talked-about topics in sports the past week, healed enough for Clowney to practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and the Gamecocks’ All-America defensive end will make the trip to Arkansas on Saturday. Ward said that he would start if healthy, and coach Steve Spurrier said that he has responded well to practice.
“He has practiced a bit,” Spurrier said on his call-in radio show. “We’re still listing him as questionable, but there’s a good chance he could play some out there.”
Clowney said Tuesday that he’s been going to treatment twice a day, and Ward backed that up Thursday.
“I visited with (trainer Clint Haggard) earlier today, and he had been in treatment already twice. And that was the first part of the morning,” Ward said. “If he’s healthy, he’s going to start. He’s practiced two days in a row, and I think he’s getting better every day.”
As for other starters who may nor may not be on the field against the Razorbacks, Spurrier and Ward said there definitely would be changes. They did not list specifics, preferring to wait until before the game, but each was clearly unhappy about how USC finished last week’s win over Kentucky.
Practice this week was about telling some starters to keep their assignments in mind, and also to say that being benched wasn’t the end of the road. Spurrier said that all responded positively, and he would see how the new starters do before deciding if the old starters will get bcak in the lineup.
“We’re going to start some different guys,” Spurrier said. “It doesn’t mean the players that played last week are finished. They’re just not starting. We’ll have some new starters.”
Scheming for the run
Ward knows that playing a team that makes no bones about running nearly all of the time requires adjustment. The Gamecocks’ secondary may get a break in pass defense, but they will have to play close behind the linebackers if Arkansas’ running game begins to gel.
“We don’t face a lot of those teams,” Ward said. “Everybody’s spread offenses these days. I think the last team we played similar to this was when we played LSU last year. They got into a lot of two-tight end, two-back sets and ran the football. That’s what Arkansas does, so we got to make sure we got enough in the box to stop the run.”
Ward said that the key to stopping the run is playing the gaps and making sure players aren’t fooled on the handoffs or pitches. It’s also important to remember that because a team likes to run doesn’t mean it won’t pass.
“You got to make sure you put your eyes in the right place,” Ward said. “A lot of big passes have happened because those guys are selling out on the run. We’ve got to do our job mentally, of focusing on our task, and when it’s called on for us to show up in run support, we do that.”
Linebacker Kaiwan Lewis was back at practice on Thursday, wearing a yellow jersey without pads. A leg infection had him in the hospital earlier in the week, but Ward said that he should be ready for Saturday.
“Kaiwan will play,” Ward said. “He ran eight gassers in practice, so he’ll be ready to play.”
Togs for Hogs
USC will wear white jerseys and garnet pants on Saturday, per a tweet from USC’s equipment staff.
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys were: Lewis (leg infection), Devin Washington (concussion), Brandon Wilds (dislocated elbow), Cody Waldrop (sprained ankle) and Mike Matulis (shoulder).
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